Friday, December 19, 2014

His Eyes Are on the Congregation

As she drove home, Judith could not help feeling how tragic it was that the priest had lost his anonymity. Of old, his personality and mannerisms simply had not mattered. In future they would matter enormously. It was all right for her, Judith, because she could drive round and pick her own priest. In which connection, thank God for old Slattery! But not so Reverend Mother; her daily Mass was indissolubly tied to enduring Father Mallon's idiosyncrasies.

But it was not only the priest who had lost his anonymity, so had the congregation. The faithful were meant to be up and doing, to participate, to express their personalities and be conscious of the community around them. Of old, the Mass provided almost the only time and place in all the world where one could get away from oneself, get lost. The expressions "lost in prayer," "lost in wonder," "lost in adoration" and the like are perfectly accurate. Of old, distractions had been the problem. Now, distraction was organized and continuous. The problem had become how to get lost.

It was not only lost of personal anonymity which worried Judith but that of the congregation as an entity. How vividly she remembered her first Mass at St. Aloysius's over seven years ago: the boisterous family with the kids with sticky sweets; the rosaries and The Garden of the soul; its utter theocentricity focused on the the Real Presence. It did not matter what the congregation did or who composed it. It would not have mattered had there been none at all. The congregation was as anonymous as Father McEnery. Its astonishing unity did not spring from human activity but from human surrender.

But the anonymity of the congregation had vanished completely. If Judith could complain of Father Mallon's idiosyncrasies, he must feel even more justified in complaining about his congregation. Nuns, parents, children, strays, were they playing their part properly? Luckily, he was facing them to make sure they did. But who was that fellow who did not follow the gym? Why could not people speak up? Was that woman shouting on purpose? Who the hell was bashing a rosary against the bench? And so on. Judith began to feel sorry for Father Mallon. Yes, poor Father Mallon; it was not really his fault. Anyway, she would put up with him for Reverend Mother's sake. She would turn up as usual on Saturday.

— Bryan Houghton, Judith's Marriage, 1987, pp. 136–137.